What drives humans?

Humans Jul 7, 2021

Humans are engineered to exhibit hope in the depth of despair. If we did not, then as a race we would not exist and it would be detrimental to the survival to us as a species.

But in "Small Moves" today, I would like to posit the question "What makes humans thrive, so that it might lead to their best work?"

  • We are social animals. Always looking for group validation. Without such validation we don't exist (or do poorly)
Ubuntu - "I am, because you are".
  • We have the need to be seen, heard and acknowledged. So that we believe that we are worth it. Very few make it without such external validation. And this could be from any source or circles that one is in - family, friends, work, social networks and groups, etc.
Ubuntu philosophy - Wikipedia
  • In order to thrive, humans must be able to do their best work. And constantly learn and improve. And whatever one's best work might be, the work should be seen, heard and appreciated. And some necessary platform in order to get that recognition. It is important that the work counts.
  • Our best work is when we are in a state of flow. It is work done in the fine balance between the extremes of boredom and stress. A balance between one's skills and competencies and the challenge from the work that is involved. And in flow, one tends to create more, whatever one is in the process of creating.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - Wikipedia
  • We need to continuously sharpen our skills and competencies with learning. And improve our skills with practice the art of the craftmanship. Whatever one's craftsmanship is.
Rebels with a cause’ may be motivated because they care for the organization and its mission
  • The challenge that one works on is the key. At work, you need an existential crisis which is real and one people can believe in. Then humans group around these challenges responding with their most creative work to do their best work to address these challenges. If it is a future problem or challenge that is not current, then you need a leader who is able to make the people doing the work that there is a future crisis, and it is real and believable, so that people can still believe in that vision to help solve that upcoming challenge.
‘Positive deviants’: Why rebellious workers spark great ideas
Organisations tend to see rebels as troublemakers – but suppressing these individuals and their ideas could backfire.
  • And last but not the least, two critical factors - unbounded freedom within constraints. Freedom to do the right thing. Freedom to own the problem. Freedom to think create and solve. Coupled with constraints that enable creativity in that freedom. Things that create "creative tension" that allows one to use that freedom to do something with it. Obviously freedom is not a free-for-all to do whatever one wants, especially in a corporate setting, but to focus on finding answers to the challenges we talked about above. Constraints might include any or all of time, resources, money, deadlines, competition, market changes, regulation, etc.

And under these collective conditions we thrive. It is a system. It is all of them, not some of them. Obviously I am trivializing it for the sake of simplifying into a small set of conditions that enable people. But actually, it is that simple. But extremely hard to get humans to thrive especially in large groups at work.


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